What Is Goose Liver Pate?

Carol Luther

Goose liver pate is a culinary paste or spread made from the fatty liver — or foie gras — of a goose. It is considered a delicacy by some, though others would prefer that it be banned on animal-cruelty grounds. To make a pate, one combines a goose’s engorged liver with seasonings and wine or brandy. The liver is then cooked and compressed into a cake of liver.

Baguettes, which can be served with goose liver pate.
Baguettes, which can be served with goose liver pate.

The first step in the process of making goose liver pate is forcing a goose to eat copious amounts of food while denying it exercise. This process, based on one developed by ancient Egyptians and Romans, results in a goose with a fatty liver. The most common food used for this purpose is a grain such as wheat or corn, though ancient Romans also appear to have fed figs to their geese. When French cooks adopted this process as part of their own culinary traditions, they began to call it la gavage.

Brandy is used to make goose liver pate.
Brandy is used to make goose liver pate.

Geese are birds that have a natural tendency to develop fat throughout their bodies. The geese used to make goose liver pate get extra food that makes them develop a fatty liver. Once the goose’s keeper thinks its liver has enough fat, the goose is slaughtered.

The goose liver is then cooked in a terrine, a glass dish with tall sides. The lid is weighted to force the stored fat in the goose’s liver to rise to the top of the dish. After the cooked liver is chilled, the resulting pate is served as an appetizer or full course in a multicourse meal.

Goose liver pate is simple, yet sophisticated. The classic accompaniment for goose liver pate is a freshly baked baguette of French bread. When none is available, one can substitute a dense white bread or crackers. If one uses crackers, the flavor must be subtle so it does not overpower the rich flavor of the pate.

One can make liver pate with the liver of other types of poultry, but they will not have the same flavor as goose liver. In the French countryside, cooks often substitute duck liver when a fattened goose is not available. These poultry alternates also may require a different seasoning strategy.

With the advent of refrigeration, it is not necessary to consume an entire pate immediately after preparing it. Goose liver pate lasts up to three days under refrigeration. The unused portion should be kept tightly wrapped.

Pate is often cooked and served in the same dish.
Pate is often cooked and served in the same dish.

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Discussion Comments


I live near the Chicago area. Considering how foie gras has been banned, does anyone know any restaurants that serve it? Preferably any five star restaurants.


@RoyalSpyder - I definitely agree with you. Thankfully though, I live in Chicago, and foie gras has been completely banned. It's good to know that there are those who actually care about what goes on behind closed doors.

However, considering how this has been going on for countless years, it's more than likely a process that was passed down from generations.


Though I've never actually tried foie gras before, it sure sounds like a tasty delicacy. However, even if I was given the opportunity, I would refuse to eat it, especially considering how the geese are force fed. Not only is it animal cruelty, but it also shows that a lot of people are willing to get food by any means necessary, and that they don't care about the animals feelings.

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